Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Valentine Sticks Foot In Mouth, Then Claims It's a New Sandwich He's Invented

I know I'm a little late with my opinion here, but since this will be an ongoing story throughout the season, I felt compelled to write a post about it.

Bobby Valentine said this about Kevin Youkilis:

"I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason."

Then Youkilis said this in response:

"That's not what I see. I go out every day and play as hard as I can. I take every ground ball in the morning, take every at-bat like it's my last. I don't think my game has changed at all. I still get upset with myself and still get mad. That's just not how I go about my game of baseball. Never have, never will."

Then Dustin Pedroia added:

"I know that Youk plays as hard as anybody I've ever seen in my life. I have his back, and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don't really understand what Bobby's trying to do. But that's really not the way we go about our stuff here. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon.

"Maybe in Japan or something... Over here in the U.S., we're on a three-game winning streak, we want to feel good and keep it rolling. We feel we have a good team and we've just got to get each other's backs and play together. Because if you don't do that, I don't care what sport you're playing, you're not going to win."

What really bugs me is that three guys who work together, practice together, travel together, and stay in the same hotel on the road together are now using the media to communicate. That's just weird. It's like two people talking to each other through a third mutual friend. Tell Bobby I said this. Tell Dustin I said this.

Actually, it's more like people who use their Facebook status as a way to publicly vent to all the world about one specific person.

That's what Valentine brings, though. He thinks he's the Master Media Manipulator, and that he can use the sports media as a managerial tool. He thinks he can motivate slackers with comments like this.

Good luck with that. It never works as well as you think it will. As this current incident is thoroughly demonstrating. And it's never panned out for Bobby in the past. But Bobby probably blames somebody else for that. Or maybe now he thinks he's learned how to do it right.

However, using the media as a tool does seem to fit in with the Red Sox organization and how they conduct business. Just as Terry Francona. Pedro Martinez. Johnny Damon. Nomar Garciaparra. Et cetera.

I think the way Bill Belichick treats the media is the wisest way to do it. Give them nothing, then they have nothing to use against your interests. The media is like a rabid chimpanzee. It's dangerous. Valentine thinks he can tame it and use it as a weapon. But it's smarter to just stay away. Because it will turn on you in a heartbeat.

There is no advantage gained by trying to do anything through the media. And I know baseball isn't football, but Francona didn't give the media anything either. Everything was kept "in house." And I think that's the best place to keep things.

But Valentine overestimates his own abilities. He thinks he is the most important man in a Red Sox uniform. He isn't. No baseball manager is. He thinks he can harness the rabid chimpanzee.

In some weird way, I kind of admire Bobby's desire to fix every little problem the Sox are having. He wanted to see Youkilis start hitting. So he did something about it. But I have serious reservations with how he went about attempting to "motivate" him. And the fact is, Kevin Youkilis is the best person to get Kevin Youkilis back to his old form. Valentine doesn't know his limitations. He doesn't even recognize that he has any.

Even though Valentine apologized, expect more stories with similar tone to this one. Bobby cannot resist. He's addicted to himself. He cannot turn down an opportunity to be responsible for something. He invented the wrap. He'll take responsibility for Sox losses, he'll also take credit for wins. I'm sure he'll even take credit for the nice weather we had today.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Day 6*

Tempers are flaring in just about every series. These games are close, physical, and every inch is being fought for. Best time of the year.

RANGERS 1, SENATORS 0 - (Rangers lead series 2-1)
Henrik Lundqvist was a wall, stopping all 39 shots he faced. With no Alfredsson, the Senators have no offense. And no chance of winning this series. The NHL suspended Carl Hagelin 3 games for the hit that concussed Alfredsson, but Hagelin may have won the series with that hit. Alfredsson is listed as day-to-day but if he doesn't come back, the Senator's won't either.

Game 4 Wednesday night in Ottawa.

BRUINS 4, CAPITALS 3 - (Bruins lead series 2-1)

Speaking of suspensions, it'll be interesting to see if Nicklas Backstrom gets one for cross-checking Rich Peverley's face at the end of last night's game. Backstrom was issued a 10 minute match penalty for "deliberate injury" and given the timing and nature of the penalty, I think at least a 1 game ban is in order.

Game 4 Thursday night in D.C.

BLUES 4, SHARKS 3 - (Blues lead series 2-1)

This game wasn't as close as the score might suggest. St. Louis entered the 3rd period with a 3-1 lead and made it 4-1 in less than a minute. Joe Thornton got 2 of his 3 assists on late goals and was awarded #2 star of the game in a token gesture of homerism. The Blues scored 3 of their 4 goals on the Power Play. They've scored 5 PP goals in the series, and limited the Sharks to just 2.

Game 4 Thursday night in San Jose.

Tonight's games:
7:00pm - Panthers @ Devils - NHL Network - Series tied 1-1
7:30pm - Predators @ Red Wings - NBC Sports - Predators lead 2-1
9:00pm - Coyotes @ Blackhawks - CNBC - Series tied 1-1

Sox' Bats Cool Off in Monday's Heat

This team seems to either score 0 to 3 runs, or 10+ runs. It's feast or famine, deluge or drought. And yesterday was definitely drought.

There's no shame in being shut down by James Shields. The Sox managed only 4 hits, all of them singles. With the way Shields was dealing there was no way the Sox would win this game, unless it was 0-0 and went deep into extra innings and they managed to beat Tampa's bullpen.

Bard was the hard luck loser. He did well. And could have been spared walking in the winning run had Valentine pulled him. I think the 4 pitch walk to Pena just before was a red flag that should have caught Bobby V's attention. He was probably too busy trying to remove his foot from his mouth.

Or maybe he was wrapping pita bread around his foot and calling it a Toe Wrap. He is, after all, very inventive.

This was a disappointing loss, but not an overly painful one. Shields vs. Bard is a significant mismatch. And Bard did very well for himself. Which is promising.

The Sox welcome Texas to town tonight. The Rangers are 8-2. Jon Lester faces Colby Lewis tonight. Lewis has only allowed 2 runs in his 2 starts.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

There's No Crying in Hockey

I didn't truly hate the Capitals until last night. Don't get me wrong, I still respect them. They're good, strong, and most are willing to accept a physical challenge. But some seem more willing to engage in childish antics, not actual hockey.

I'm speaking, of course, of Karl Azner. Who bravely tried putting Milan Lucic in a headlock while Lucic was already tangling with Matt Hendricks.

That same courageous Capital then made a cry-baby gesture to Lucic. The refs didn't give Azner a penalty for being the 3rd man in an altercation. They didn't give him a penalty at all. In fact, Lucic got the extra minor and a Bruins' Power Play became a 4-on-4.

NHL refs rarely make such obvious mistakes. 99.9% of the time they do an excellent job. And when they screw up, like they did last night, the Hockey gods intervene and make things right again. The Hockey gods smiled on the Bruins and they scored.

The Hockey gods also smile on 6' 9" defensemen, and their German partners.

Speaking of which, Dennis Seidenberg had the game of his life last night. He was a huge part of 2 goals, helping to keep plays alive in the offensive zone. He held his own against Ovechkin (who has 24 pounds on Seidenberg), he had 4 hits, and blocked 4 shots.

Somehow Brooks Laich got the #1 star. Not Thomas. Not Chara. Not Seidenberg. Laich had a 3 point night, but so did Chara. And Chara also played 26:29 of excellent defensive hockey.


The Bruins were good in the first two periods. But good doesn't cut it in the playoffs. In the 3rd period, however, they were great. Apart from allowing Laich to stretch the zone, the B's were clearly the superior team in the 3rd.

They have good enough goaltending and defense to keep them in every game. Even as the top two lines struggle to produce anything offensively. The Bruins have not played at their peak capability, and yet they're up 2-1 in this series.

What will happen if they reach that peak?

Game 4 Thursday night in Washington.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo